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saying there's a chanceI kind of hate reading thoughts from guys like Jeff Samardzija about how important it is for the Cubs to get out to a fast start this year.

Why do I hate it? Because I know how much he wants it to be true; how much he wants the Cubs to succeed so that there’s no summer sell-off; how much he wants to see the fans pouring into Wrigley as the season goes along (“I’ve always said that it’s important in Chicago to start fast and really get those fans behind you and get that momentum going,” he told Patrick Mooney in that above article. “Because once you build that momentum in Chicago, it’s a hard thing to miss.”)

Ugh. It just makes me sad to know that it’s very unlikely to happen.

… that said, the Cubs are creeping up in the projections! You know, mostly because, relatively speaking, baseball is a vast wasteland of injuries, and the Cubs are pretty healthy.

PECOTA had the Cubs at 71 wins in its original projection, and now the Cubs have crept up to 73 wins. FanGraphs originally had the Cubs at 71 wins, but now has them all the way up at 75 wins. That’s just nine games behind the second Wild Card team (the Pirates, at 84 wins)!

FanGraphs hasn’t updated its playoff odds projection to account for the new projected win total, but even at the last update (which had the Cubs at 72 wins), their playoff odds had risen from 2.4% originally to 3.3%. At 75 wins, that number will be considerably higher.

Baseball Prospectus has released its playoff odds (updated March 19), and the Cubs are all the way up at 8.3%. Small number? Sure. But that’s within the realm of a thing that could happen, and makes certain ridiculed comments by a certain owner and front office seem reasonable.

Will it be enough to keep the Cubs competitive through June? So competitive that the front office believes the playoffs are sufficiently realistic that they don’t tear things apart? Probably not. I don’t want to sell you false hope here. But a few more Tommy Johns here and some underperformance there, and the rest of baseball could slink back toward the middle. If that happens and the Cubs get a little luck? You never know.

(h/t to BN’er Kyle for comments that led me to checking out the updated projections)

  • CubFanBob

    lets do it !!!!

  • MattyNomad

    So what was all that one in a million talk about?!

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Rounding error….

  • Jason P

    In addition to making the playoffs comments by Tom Ricketts seem slightly more reasonable, this also makes the “let’s not sign any mid-level free agents because we’re not making the playoffs anyway” camp seem all the more unreasonable.

    • Isaac

      Wrong. Saying “it’s possible we make the playoffs” is very different than spending a bunch of money to go from 8% to 10%.

      • Edwin

        What if spending a bunch of money made the odds go from 8% to 30%?

      • Jason P

        Right now, we have an 8% chance of making the playoffs. Spend our Tanaka fund on 1- or 2-year deals for mid-level free agents, and that number jumps up to the 13-14% range. You help the present without harming the future.

        • Isaac

          30% would be one thing (I highly doubt “mid-level” free agents take us even remotely close to that)….13-14% is not worth it. I don’t buy that we could have done it without harming the future.

          • Edwin

            The Reds have 3.2 more projected WAR than the Cubs. The Reds currently have projected playoff odds of 27.3%. I’d say getting about 3-5 WAR easily takes us there, if not further.

            • JB88

              Yes, but the Cubs might add 3.2 WAR just from calling up Baez in June and replacing Barney in the lineup.

              Why buy flawed assets that you don’t believe are going to really help your club and spend $10+M per season to do it?

              • Jason P

                The Cubs projected record already accounts for mid-season prospect call-ups.

                You buy flawed assets because those players are still miles better than our current doubly-flawed assets. And if you get them on short-term deals, you won’t be stuck with those flawed assets when “less flawed assets” emerge from the farm system.

              • ChiMike702

                You’re saying Baez could post about 4 WAR in 2/3’s of a season? That’s not a very realistic expectation.

                • JB88

                  I actually said 3.2. And it isn’t my projection; it is basically what Steamers is projecting for Baez (when you factor in that he would be playing roughly 2/3 of the season).

                  • Jason P

                    Steamer pegs him at 0.2 WAR, which is still under 2 if you extrapolate it out over 2/3 of a season. Oliver projects him a 4.2 for a full season — basically 2.9 for 2/3 of a season — but that projection’s the outlier.

                    • JB88

                      Looked at the wrong name. You and Edwin are right, it is Oliver that makes that projections. I agree that it is an outlier too. My point was more that if the team really believes it is only a few games away from contending, that they may look to fill that need internally, rather than spend a hefty price for middling talent.

                  • Edwin

                    Oliver projects 4.3 WAR over 600 PA. Over 2/3 of a season that’s about 2.8 WAR. Barney is projected for .7 WAR for 600 PA. If you replace Barney with Baez, you’re replacing .46 WAR from Barney with 2.8 WAR from Baez, so a projected net gain of about 2.3 WAR.

                    Steamer has Baez being worth .2 WAR in 54 PA, which works out to 1.4 WAR in 2/3 of a season.

                    • ChiMike702

                      I wasn’t going off projections but Barney’s average WAR over the last 3 years. Either way, he isn’t a 0 WAR player.

                      Puig set the world on fire last year and managed 4.0 WAR in 104. He’s also older and played at higher levels before.

                      Point is, that kind of WAR output is a LOT to expect from Baez.

          • Jason P

            Why would spending on 1-2 year deals adversely affect the future?

            If we’re at 75 wins projected right now, 3 more wins would close to double our chances of making the playoffs, and 5 more wins (to our original 75) would at least triple that chance.

            • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

              Well, if you spend money on 1 year deals to get you an extra 3 wins, that isn’t going to move the attendance needle. A 2 year deal is unlikely to pay off in both years and/or there will be equivelant players in next years FA class to buy up.

              Also, getting 78 wins instead of 75 would hurt the future in lowering our draft pick.

              • Jason P

                78 wins aren’t going to bring people back to the park (unless you start fast and fade), but having a 78-win projection increases your chances of 85+ wins, which would move the attendance needle.

                The lowered draft pick is a very minor concern. Having the 10th pick instead of the 8th pick lowers your chances of finding a successful player by well under 5%.

                • ssckelley

                  True, but there is a huge difference in having the 10th pick instead of the 11th.

                  • TTH

                    Is it still a huge difference if the FO refuses to take advantage of that difference?

                    • Norm

                      Yes…there is a chance the Cubs would sign a FA with the 10th pick. There is a significantly lower chance the Cubs would sign a FA with the 11th pick.

                    • ssckelley

                      I agree with that but I am not convinced the Cubs would not use this advantage next off season. I think they had pretty good reasons to not use that advantage this off season as none of the compensation free agents looked like they were worth even the 2nd round pick.

        • JadeBos

          Who are the two 1-2 year deals? Cruz & Santana?

        • mjhurdle

          why spend all the Tanaka money on 1-2 “mid-level free agents”?
          What if the Cubs had decided that they want to sign 2 top pitching FAs. They were hoping for one this year (Tanaka) and one of the crop next year. Now they still have the money to make a run at 2 next year, unless they spend it all on “mid-level” FAs so that we can have a couple of years at 12% playoff chance, instead of 1 at 8% and the next at 24%.

          Is that what is going to happen? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t call someone who thought that “unreasonable”.

          • Jason P

            With the new TV deal and other revenue streams that project to be coming in, it shouldn’t be a problem. And even if it is, it’s not like it would be that hard to clear space. Edwin Jackson’s deal should be movable after he “rebounds” this year. Soriano comes off the books. Heck, if you signed Santana for 1 year and a mutual option, you wouldn’t even have to worry about that.

            Not to mention that if the Cubs actually do remain in contention for a while, the revenue that generates would pay for the signings multiple times over.

            • mjhurdle

              All of that may be possible (though i dont get why you would move Jackson’s contract if he rebounds this year or that staying in contention a couple weeks longer would result in enough extra revenue to pay for the FAs multiple times over), but I don’t see why someone who doesn’t agree with it is being “unreasonable”.

              • Jason P

                You would only move Jackson’s contract in a scenario where the new FA’s don’t make you as competitive as you hoped and somehow you are on the verge of signing a second TOR free agent in next year’s class and need the money (obviously, very, very unlikely).

                Again, you’re operating under the false notion that signing free agents like the one’s I suggested is going to drastically and negatively alter their probability of making the playoffs in future years. The idea that signing Santana and Hart (just 2 hypothetical examples) on 1- or 2-year deals is going to at some point cut their chances of making the playoffs in half (from 24% to 12%) is unreasonable.

            • http://bleachernation.com woody

              For sure the Soriano money is coming off the books, but the TV deal is kind of complicated because the deals in place terminate at different times. Honestly Ricketts inherited that mess, but it’s hard to get a deal like the Phillies when you have half of your games contracted for the next five years or so. Seems like the Rooftop issue has taken a back seat with spring training, but it really is crunch time for the boys in business operations. It seems like they are waiting for that Bud sign to be installed to start litigation. If September rolls around and this thing is delayed for another year then they are stoinked. Also I would think that anyone competing for the TV rights would want to see the renovation plan in progress before any deal.

          • Jason P

            And of course, then there’s the incredible improbability that Cubs could lure 2 of the 3 TOR arms hitting the market next year even if they wanted to.

            • JadeBos

              Isn’t the bigger issue for the Cubs getting one more protected top ten pick? Signing a couple of mid level guys like you say maybe ads a handful of wins, but then if you end up with 75 wins and picking 12th you can’t sign any top shelf FAs next year without losing your first round pick entirely. And the two midlevel 1-2 year guys don’t really help long term.

              While I don’t think the Cubs are trying to lose on purpose, but maxing out your budget for a shot at 500 doesn’t really help long term. especially f this is an offseason that has a few viable TOR candidates and top prospects graduating.

              • brickhouse

                This seems to be a common theme often repeated – Why spend a lot of money to get to 500 ? The answer is it makes it that muxch easier to reach the playoffs the following year. You don’t lose the talent you sign and also increase revenue by putting a competitive team on the field to improve attendance. Every decision does not have to be made only for the benefit of long term goals.

  • itzscott

    If we’re going to put so much stock in these numbers, why even bother playing the game?

    • Edwin

      …is that a real question?

      • itzscott

        Of course it’s not a real question….

        My point being that many here take these projections to be gospel yet most of these same people (both statheads and non-statheads) don’t need a slide rule to predict that the Cubs are likely to win between 70-75 games this season.

    • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

      I need to start posting an over/under on these threads as to when the old: “PROJECTIONS, SMOJECTIONS! WHY PLAY THE GAMES!!!!!!!” gets trotted out.

  • http://waittilnextyear.net NateCorbitt

    Mike Ferrin (or Jim Duquette, I can never tell them apart) on Power Alley (MLBN Radio) just predicted Javy Baez finishing 2nd in ROY voting behind Archie Bradley.

    • itzscott

      Kiss of death….

      I’m predicting Olt will be ROY

  • Indy57

    After watching a few of the spring training games, I’m optimistic about the future. We have competition at several positions, with depth in the infield, bullpen and back end of the rotation. The outfield platoon system may work out better than last year. Still, 75 wins seem like a max number. Second half should be interesting as a couple of guys will be up from AAA and some of our prospects in AA will take one step closer to MLB. However, something has to go really right for us and really wrong for someone ahead of us in order to make the playoffs. Cue Jim Mora……

  • Blackhawks1963

    WHEN the building strategy gets to a sufficient state THEN I the Cubs will use free agency to add COMPLEMENTARY pieces and a MAJOR piece or two.

    But free agency was and is NEVER going to be the panacea. Thankfully. Theo Epstein has been very clear on this and I 100% agree. No more “pretend competiting.” If the core hasn’t been built right like they have done in places like Boston and St. Louis, then no amount of spending can change our fate. It’s short-sighted, naive, simplistic thinking that made the franchise a 100 year plus loser and the laughingstock of professional sports.

    • brickhouse

      Theo stated that when the prospects are called up they are not the panacea. Franchises have taken 10-20 years before they build a core through player development. How patient do you expect the fan base to be with lack of big resources until 2020 ?

      • http://brianmyers.us BrianMyersUS

        Teams can win without big resources, and Theo and Co. is playing that game. They are playing it like the Twins and A’s over the past couple decades. Develop youth which the organization can pay low while having control over their contracts for the next 5 years. About the time the club will need to pay their home grown talent more money, their extra revenue will become available and they can pay the franchise players more to stay around. Those “less franchise” will get replaced by new youth from the farm system. This is small market baseball economics played by a team that won’t have to let the talent go once it matures.

  • Jr 25

    New report out of Toronto is that Reyes is having an MRI today on his hurt hamstring and with some of the BIGGER scouts for the Jays watching Shark last week how long til we start hearing trade rumors for Shark and Barney?

  • http://brianmyers.us BrianMyersUS

    I realize this is only Spring Training, but the Cubs so far have been:

    28th in batting average. 17th in RBI’s. 15th in runs.
    While leading baseball in HR’s. So they have flashes of brilliance, but are questionable when the ball stays in the park.

    Pitching: They are 24th in ERA and 26th in WHIP.

    Really, based on their current talent level, this seems accurate for what this team will be. It will be a more exciting team and an improved team from the past few years. They will have several dramatic victories. But at the end of the day, 70 something wins seems about right with a great upside on the horizon. They may even get better as the year progresses as more youth gets promoted and current youth improves.

  • ClevelandCubsFan

    “Will it be enough to keep the Cubs competitive through June? So competitive that the front office believes the playoffs are sufficiently realistic that they don’t tear things apart? Probably not. I don’t want to sell you false hope here. But a few more Tommy Johns here and some underperformance there, and the rest of baseball could slink back toward the middle.”

    I’m still not convinced this is the right way to look at it–“tear[ing] things apart,” that is. If we’re a 73 win team or so (for example) and the prospect core is looking ready and we really think we can make a big move in 2015, there are going to be a lot of pieces we want to keep for any number or reasons: consistency, stability, a cadre of guys who’ve bought into the “Cubs Way,” good role players.

    And imagine a big name pitcher comes up at the trade deadline–the kind of guy you’d like to extend and build around for 2015 and on. And let’s say that guy is amenable to an extension on FA-type terms, might the Cubs not look to take a guy off the market and actually ADD at the trade deadline? I’m granting there are a couple ifs there, but trades with extensions built in aren’t unheard of. Think Masterson. I think he could be a good candidate. The Indians–in my opinion–are going to be worse this year and probably won’t make the playoffs. Masterson didn’t get a deal done, so if I’m right, he’s a good bet for trade bait come July. If the Cubs could put together a package the Indians liked on the condition that Masterson signed an extension… the Cubs sure look like they’ve got the ability to grab a guy like that. For the Cubs to scoop him off the market early, maybe give him a $5 mil. bump for the remainder of 2014 and 5/85 after that (he’s asking for around 17 per year supposedly) for a total deal of about 5.5/90 — why not? (quibble all you want with the exact numbers).

    I’m using Masterson as an example, but this seems like a realistic (if iffy) type of deal the Cubs might pursue.

  • brickhouse

    So the Cubs don’t need to get better – they just have to wait for the other teams to get worse

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